Ganglioneuroblastoma: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatments


What is a Ganglioneuroblastoma?

An intermediate tumor is one that has both cancerous (malignant) and non-cancerous (benign) cells. An intermediate tumor growing in nerve tissue is called ganglioneuroblastoma. This type of tumor can grow and spread.

Ganglioneuroblastoma is a type of neuroblastoma, meaning that it develops from nerve cells. “A ganglia” means is a mass of nerve cells—in other words, this type of tumor develops out of a bundled mass of nerve cells.

These tumors are rare. It occurs in fewer than five out of one million children each year (NIH, 2012).

Symptoms of a Ganglioneuroblastoma

There are no obvious symptoms from this tumor. In most cases, the first sign is a lump, usually in the abdomen.

Do not ignore a lump in your child’s abdomen. Seek prompt medical care. Early diagnosis and treatment are very important.

How a Ganglioneuroblastoma Is Diagnosed

If your child has a lump, make an appointment for a complete physical exam. Some tests used to help diagnose tumors include:

  • blood tests
  • urine tests
  • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • computed tomography (CT) scan
  • metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) scan—a special nuclear imaging test to detect neuroblastomas
  • bone scan
  • bone marrow aspiration and biopsy
  • biopsy

Treatment Options for a Ganglioneuroblastoma

Treatment usually begins with surgical removal of the tumor. Then chemotherapy and radiation are used to prevent regrowth.

If a tumor only contains benign cells, surgery is most likely the only treatment needed.

About Tumors in General

Terms used to describe tumors can be confusing. This glossary can help you talk to your doctor about your child’s diagnosis.

Related Types of Neurological Tumors

Ganglioneuroblastomas are intermediate tumors growing in nerve tissue.

Ganglioneuromas are benign tumors of mature ganglion and nerve sheaths. Removal is usually the only treatment necessary.

Neuroblastomas are cancers that start in the primitive nerve cells of an embryo or fetus. They occur primarily in infants and children under 1 year of age. In the United States, about 500 children are diagnosed with neuroblastoma every year, according to Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH). Treatment involves surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.

Tumor Types

Benign tumors are non-cancerous. They are usually slow-growing and not expected to spread.

Malignant tumors are cancerous. They are usually fast-growing and aggressive. They can be expected to grow and spread.

Intermediate tumors have both benign and malignant parts.

Understanding Tumors

Differentiated tumors have cells that look similar to normal cells. These tumors usually grow and spread slowly.

Poorly differentiated or undifferentiated tumors have cells that appear to be very different from normal cells. They tend to grow and spread.

Nuclear grade refers to the percentage of tumor cells that are dividing. It also evaluates the shape and size of the cell nucleus. Grades range from one to four. Lower grades generally mean a more favorable prognosis.

Staging describes how advanced a cancer is. Stages range from zero to four. Lower stages generally have outcomes that are more favorable. The stage is determined by the:

  • number of tumors
  • tumor size
  • location of the primary tumor
  • whether or not the tumor has spread
  • tumor grade

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